Definition of undertow in US English:



  • 1

    ‘I was swept away by the undertow’
    another term for rip current, used in the incorrect belief that rip currents drag swimmers below the surface
    • ‘The water then withdraws (the backwash) either as undertow (sheetflow near the sea bed) or in localized currents known as rip currents.’
    • ‘Sometimes he tells himself he's not going to follow them, but the current is too strong, the undertow too fierce.’
    • ‘Like undertow at a beach, you find yourself being drawn out to places you don't want to be without realizing it.’
    • ‘It was far away, almost out of sight, and the undertow threatened to pull her down at any moment.’
    • ‘And, as each wave retreats, there is a vicious undertow.’
    • ‘She hit the sandy ground, and got pulled out with the undertow.’
    • ‘He swam across the river easily, even though the undertow beneath could be fatal to someone who was not a strong swimmer.’
    • ‘It would be quite possible for the shallow boat, affected only by the top current, to be swept away by a ‘huge mass’ being dragged along by the undertow.’
    • ‘Jenny screamed, being dragged under by the massive undertow.’
    • ‘As a wave lifts him he grips onto a rocky ledge and is pulled back by the undertow.’
    • ‘Before they know it, they're caught in the undertow.’
    • ‘Struggling against the current, he was overcome by the undertow several times before he managed to swim with the child to where the boys waited.’
    • ‘Yet they delighted in the constant movement of the ocean, fascinated by the pounding waves and pulling undertows.’
    • ‘The undertow here's strong, and it'll sweep you out to sea before you know it.’
    • ‘It was like a flood, like being trapped in the undertow of a tsunami.’
    • ‘Raise your arm for help, and float with the current or the undertow.’
    • ‘But like the undertow of a giant tidal wave, the massive media exposure couldn't exist without a backlash.’
    • ‘There are some rapids downstream, and one of the kayakers seems to get caught in the undertow for a few minutes.’
    • ‘There's been a high undertow and rip currents there.’
    • ‘Some people mistakenly call this an undertow, but there's no undercurrent, just an offshore current.’
    1. 1.1figurative An implicit quality, emotion, or influence underlying the superficial aspects of something and leaving a particular impression.
      ‘there's a dark undertow of loss that links the novel with earlier works’
      • ‘Amid the laughter, the melodrama and hysteria, this is a play with a terrible, almost frightening undertow of sadness and helplessness.’
      • ‘The undertow of hopelessness threatens to lead many to despair.’
      • ‘Unhappily for your daughter, she is in the undertow of abuse, loss, and possibly guilt.’
      • ‘There will be no big themes, no gripping emotional undertow, no feeling of the pain.’
      • ‘There is a dark undertow to the book.’